The Twins' Early Development Study (TEDS) is a large-scale longitudinal study of twins from early childhood through adolescence. Since its conception, TEDS has had as its focus the study of problematic development within the context of normal variation, mainly in the development of language, cognitive and academic abilities and behavior problems from multivariate quantitative and molecular genetic perspectives. TEDS twins have been assessed at 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10 and (currently) 12 years of age, and DNA collected from more than 12,000 children. Identified from birth records of twins born in the United Kingdom between 1994 and 1996, more than 15,000 pairs of twins originally enrolled in TEDS, and well over 13,000 pairs — representative of the UK population — remain involved in the study to date. Similar to many other twin and adoption studies, TEDS data indicate that both genetic and environmental influences are important in nearly all areas of behavioral development. Multivariate genetic analyses allow researchers to go beyond this basic nature–nurture question, and TEDS results suggest that, especially in the area of learning abilities and disabilities, genes are generalists and environments are specialists. That is, genes largely contribute to similarity in performance within and between learning abilities and disabilities and across age, whereas the environment contributes to differences in performance. Quantitative genetic findings such as these chart the course for molecular genetic research. The TEDS dataset is proving valuable in genome-wide association research that tries to identify some of the many genes responsible for the ubiquitous heritability of behavior.
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